Prateek didn’t know what to say after that. He hadn’t even thought of this possibility. He didn’t think she had a choice, but apparently she had.

“Then, what do you want?” Prateek asked Shama apprehensively.

“I will stay with aunty Vishakha. She can take care of me. You killed my mom. I don’t ever want to be with you.” Shama said angrily.

“Don’t say that Shama.” Vishakha said angrily. Prateek looked at her and then at Shama. He knew that he didn’t even had the right to be angry at Shama right now. Since Vaishali’s death, Shama has been living with Vishakha till he sorted his life out. It has been over a month now. He visited Shama every other day and Vishakha would bring Shama to his hotel room on other days as well. He didn’t dare take Shama back to the house where her mother committed suicide.

“It’s alright Vishakha. I’ll come back later.” Prateek said defeatedly and stood up to go. Shama ran off to her room without giving as much a single glance at his father.

“I’m sorry Prateek.” Vishakha said as Prateek exited the house.

“Maybe she’s right.” Prateek said.

“You know that’s not true. It isn’t your fault that Vaishali got sick.”

“Perhaps, but I could have taken better care of her. I could’ve allayed her fears. That might have helped.” Prateek said dejectedly. These thoughts weren’t knew and had engulfed him for the past one month. He had taken care of Vaishali for the past so many years but as her condition worsened, he felt that his care didn’t increase to match that. Situation especially turned sour when Vaishali started to become delirious and thought that he was having an affair. That is when everything went to shit.

“You really think that she would have listened to anything any one of us said. I was with her every day and she was getting more delirious by the day. Nothing you or I or anyone else could have said to dissuade her from believing what she wanted.” Vishakha said instinctively putting her hand on Prateek’s cheek. She was determined to pick up the broken pieces of her sister’s family and support them.

“Thank you Vishakha. If not for you, I don’t know what I would have done with Shama.”

“I am there for you both.” She said and kissed Prateek. Prateek didn’t show any emotion. It was hard for him to actually understand what he felt about it. This wasn’t the first time they had kissed. The first time was when both of them were in the hotel room and he was crying his heart out. He didn’t know who initiated it but they didn’t stop at the kiss. He felt guilty about it but somehow, they ended up doing it again. Perhaps the two were sharing the pain of losing Vaishali. At least that is how he was rationalizing it.

“It’s ironical that I never did anything wrong when she was alive and now that she’s gone, I feel so wrong doing it anyways.” He said weakly.

“Oh Prateek!” Vishakha said and hugged Prateek. She kept looking as he stumbled towards his car and went away to his hotel.

“I will take care of your family Vaishali. I will keep my promise.” Vishakha said reminiscing on the last conversation she had with her sister before she committed suicide.

“Shama. Please come to eat something.” Vishakha said entering Shama’s room. It had been revamped similar to her room at her home. She had added her books and her toys to complete the setting and the room now looked exactly like her room at home. Looking back, this might have been a mistake. Now, she doesn’t want to go back to her father.

“Is he gone?” Shama asked without looking at Vishakha.

“Yes. He is gone. But I am very sad at how you are treating him. It isn’t his fault you know. He is trying to do his best.” Vishakha said soothingly.

“He’s the one who has caused it Aunty. If he didn’t had affairs, mom would have been alive.” Shama said with tears in her eyes.

“Dear Shama. Do you really think he would do that?” Vishakha asked softly.

Shama nodded as streams of tears ran from her eyes. They were reddening along with her nose. Shama had a pale complexion but crying brought out a hue of red in her cheeks and nose.

“Oh sweetheart. Please don’t believe what your mom said. She was not well.” Vishakha knew she couldn’t outright say to Shama that her mom was crazy. But if Shama didn’t understand this, she wouldn’t forgive her father.

“She didn’t tell me anything. I saw it myself. In fact, it was I who told mom the truth.”

Vishakha was stunned.

“What did you see Shama?” Vishakha asked.

“I saw him with many women. He would bring them, send me to my room and leave my mother alone. In fact, he brought one woman today also. She was sitting in his car.”

“There was no one in the car Shama.” Vishakha said cautiously.

“There was. The woman was sitting in it the whole time he was here.” Shama said confidently.

Vishakha sat down and looked at Shama, comprehension dawning over her.

“You told your mother about those women.”

“Yes. And he is still with those women. He killed my mother aunty. I am never going to go to him.”

Vishakha hugged Shama as she kept crying and saying that she would never forgive her father.